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Afghan Taliban Leader 'Seriously Injured' In Pakistan

Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansur, Taliban militants' new leader, is seen in this undated handout photograph by the Taliban

Afghan officials say Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansur has been seriously injured in a firefight following a verbal dispute at a meeting of militant commanders in neighboring Pakistan, exposing the deep divisions within the fractious militant movement.

"Mansur was seriously injured and taken to hospital," Sultan Faizi, a spokesman for Afghan First Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum, told RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan on December 2.

Faizi added that he was "unsure" whether Mullah Mansur had survived his injuries.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid denied that any such firefight took place.

Mansur was declared the new Taliban leader in July, days after the Afghan government confirmed that Taliban spiritual leader Mullah Mohammad Omar had died in the Pakistani port city of Karachi two years earlier.

But a leadership tussle immediately ensued, with some Taliban commanders refusing to recognize Mansur.

The Afghan vice presidential spokesman Faizi said Mansur had attended a meeting of Taliban commanders on December 1 in the Kachlakh area of Quetta, Pakistan.

That southwestern Pakistani city is where the Taliban's leadership council is believed to be located.

Faizi said Mansur became embroiled in a heated exchange with Mullah Abdullah Sardari, a Taliban commander.

Sardari is a former Guantanamo Bay detainee who was freed in 2012.

He is known to have been operating in the Quetta area.

Sardari and four other Taliban commanders were killed in the firefight, according to Faizi.

The deadly incident comes amid a renewed effort to jump-start peace talks between Kabul and the Taliban.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif voiced a willingness to revive stalled peace talks when the two met briefly on the sidelines of a climate-change conference in Paris on December 1.

Mansur, who is believed by some to be close to the Pakistani Army, is thought to be open to peace talks.

Kabul has repeatedly accused Islamabad of aiding the Taliban.

With reporting by AFP